IBM VisualAge C++ Professional 4.0

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IBM VisualAge C++ Professional 4.0 was a radical update to the VAC product that merges the IDE, compiler and debugger into one program that brings with it a host of benefits that are not really or not easily possible with a traditional C compiler such as incremental compilation, some clever code lookup and on-the-spot debugging tricks. Since the new integrated IDE/Compiler no longer has a workframe integrated into the WPS as it was with 3.0.x compatibility between different OS versions is greatly enhanced, as all workframe functions are replicated or redundant with the new UI the only loss is the ability to integrate third party software into the workframe has been removed. Originally released on 1998-12-18, and in addition to the VAC 4 development kit the package also came with a copy of "IBM C and C++ Compilers Version 3.6.5" (See below).

  • ANSI/ISO 1998 C++ compatible, also supports and comes with ANSI/ISO STL, and Open Class 4.0.
  • Available in Simplified Chinese and Japanese in addition to English.
  • Last known Windows version is 4.0.3, while last known OS/2 versions are 4.0.1.

There was some acrimony towards IBM from OS/2 users of VAC4, IBM initially announced the end of life of the product in 1999 for both MS Windows and OS/2 while it kept updating the AIX version. The announcement was less than a year from the original release of the product and despite the release of Fixpack 1 for both the Windows and OS/2 had some serious bugs that left the tools more or less useless. After an uproar from VAC customers and after it had been pointed out that this could lead to lawsuits since this state of affairs contravened consumer protection laws in a number of countries, IBM decided to extend the support into 2001 and promised a Fixpack 2 for OS/2 and MS Windows, but only delivered fixes for the Windows product, in fact delivered two fixpacks which actually left the Windows version quite usable and a number of third parties used it for some large projects. But the OS/2 version of VAC4 remains mostly unusable and the bulk of OS/2 developers used the 3.6.5 version instead, and indeed that was the version IBM used internally for delivering support up until they EOL'd OS/2 support in 2006.

Although highly innovative and a tool that pointed the way forwards for C and C++ development tools and sported features that have never been replicated in any other system, the release of VAC4 seems to have an all round disaster. A fairly large number of German software houses had taken up the compiler after the release of the Windows version of VAC 3.5, the compiler was available in German, it had a fairly mature object and template library in the form of "Open Class" at a time when the STL was promising, but mostly useless, had better visual development tools in general than the competition and it had a high amount of compatibility with the 3.0.x version of VAC for OS/2 meaning that the task of writing applications that targeted two of the largest 32 bit operating systems on the market was simplified. OS/2 had a relatively large following in the country as the largest local PC manufacturer and retailer ESCOM had delivered their PC's with both Windows 95 and OS/2 Warp installed as standard.

VAC 3.5 was very buggy at its initial release but IBM provided fixes in a timely manner and did so as well for Open Class, but with the release of VAC4 they dropped the German version which felt a bit odd at a time when more than half of the participants on the English language VAC forum were native German speakers, the initial release was extremely buggy and IBM did not release fixes for quite a while, and when they arrived they fixed only a few of the most complained about bugs, likewise Open Class 4 was much buggier than the previous release and no fixes were released for that either, a few software houses persevered using the 3.6.5 compiler, but a year after the release of VAC4 the bulk of German developers, and all of the bigger ones had moved off not just the VAC4 system but off IBM tools altogether.

IBM copyright notice
Desktop folder after 3.6.5 installation

IBM C and C++ Compilers Version 3.6.5

As VisualAge 4.0 was a radical step forward it meant that as it stood the tool-chain was not compatible with earlier C projects that were developed in VAC version 3.x or IBM C Set++ for OS/2, this was in particular problematic for driver development that all relied on code that needed quite a bit of massaging to work with 4. This could become something of a cost issue for IBM since re-writing their entire driver codebase could get expensive and it was decided that releasing an updated version of the 3.x tool that only received limited updates was cheaper than wasting time on updating older code for no other reason. So a command line compiler with a version number 3.6.5 is shipped with VAC4 in versions available for OS/2, AIX and MS Windows. IBM called it the "IBM C & C++ Compiler" rather than VisualAge since it did not feature any visual tools, but actually it is an update of the compiler included in VAC 3.x and has better compatibility with projects created with VAC 3.5 for MS Windows.

  • C & C++ Compilers are command line only and therefore do not support any visual tools built into the IDE, including Visual Builder, Configuration Optimizer, Data Access Builder, IDE debugging. The kit however comes with a separate graphical debugger and text mode debugging using classic IBM or third party tools is supported as well. You could also use visual tools from VisualAge C++ 3.0 with some caveats though.
  • Other v4 IDE bound features such as incremental compilation are not supported.
  • However the improved memory management routines that were introduced with v4 are supplied with 3.6.5, as are separate resource tools for creating and compiling resources and converting resources between platforms.
  • Also includes the full-text online help search engine.
  • Like the rest of the 3.x branch, 3.6 is ANSI C++ 1992 compliant rather than ANSI 1998 as VAC4 is and it does not support ANSI/ISO STL, however unlike the older 3.x versions it does support Open Class 4.0.
  • Available in Simplified Chinese and Japanese in addition to English.
  • Last known OS/2 version is 3.6.5-FP2 for the English version and 3.6.5-FP1 for the Simplified Chinese and Japanese versions. Last known MS Windows version is 3.6.5-FP2-TF2 for the English variant, 3.6.5-FP2 for the Japanese one and 3.6.5-FP1 for the Chinese version.

Articles

Publications

IBM Redbooks
  • SG24-5489 - Getting to Know VisualAge C++ Version 4.0

Links

C/C++ 3.6.5 updates
  • The last fixpack for the English OS/2 version of 3.6.5 is Fixpack 2, and Fixpack 1 for the Chinese and Japanese versions of the tool.
  • The Windows version of 3.6.5 also has English Fixpack 2 but there was also a Postfix issued that can be found in the e-fix051200 subfolder. The Japanese version also got a Fixpack 2 while the Simplified Chinese version stalled at Fixpack 1.
VisualAge C++ 4 updates